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Medicine by Design will invest up to $1-million in the call for Convergent Working Groups, which aim to set research priorities for Medicine by Design as outlined in its new Strategic Plan.

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About the Convergent Working Groups

Medicine by Design is seeking participation from the University of Toronto and the broader Toronto Academic Health Sciences Network (TAHSN) across multiple disciplines (spanning the physical and life sciences, medicine, engineering, and social sciences) and across the academic, private and not-for-profit sectors, in setting new research priorities for Medicine by Design to fulfill the commitments of its new Strategic Plan.

The Convergent Working Groups will integrate convergent disciplines and experiences that are new to the regenerative medicine community together with those who have been involved with Medicine by Design for many years. Industry partners, regional accelerators and the patients and communities we expect to serve and engage will also be involved.

Successful teams will receive up to $25,000 in Phase 1 funding to address one of the identified research themes (defined below) through a workshop that will produce a position paper with a call to action. Funded groups will then be eligible for Phase 2 funding of an additional $200,000 to implement a 1-year pilot research program.

Under its Strategic Plan, Medicine by Design has made three commitments to advance its mission to “harness Toronto’s extraordinary expertise across convergent disciplines and institutions to invent, develop, scale and implement living therapies that will transform healthcare for Canada and the world” and to make Toronto “a globally leading ecosystem for regenerative medicine innovation.”

These commitments are:

  • Advance transformative research and early-stage translation in regenerative medicine;
  • Enable the commercialization of accessible, living therapies at-scale; and
  • Prepare health systems, clinics and communities to implement living therapy innovations.

Medicine by Design invites investigators to submit proposals addressing one of the research themes below that aligns with these commitments.

Convergent Working Groups Research Themes

  • Leveraging new technology platforms (e.g., AI-driven design of experiments, robotic self-driving labs, immune engineering, gene editing, synthetic biology, precision medicine) to accelerate the discovery and early-stage translation of engineered, bespoke living therapeutics.
  • Enabling the development of regenerative medicine technologies and living therapies for faster, better recovery from organ failure, severe infections and/or cancer.
  • Strategies that support maternal and children’s health. For example: (i) exploring the role of biological inheritance (e.g., epigenetics, intergenerational factors) in health and disease and the implications for new approaches to regenerative medicine (e.g., therapeutic modulation of the epigenome); (ii) novel regenerative medicine-based approaches to infertility and/or addressing perinatal complications.
  • Innovative biomanufacturing strategies (e.g., on-chip/microfluidics, biosensors, vector-free manufacturing strategies, automation, machine learning) to drive technological breakthroughs that will enable affordability and accessibility of living therapies.
  • Policy frameworks to support the delivery and wide-spread uptake of regenerative medicine innovations and to ensure a constructive impact on the local bioinnovation ecosystem.
  • Novel business models and/or frameworks for the payment, distribution and delivery of regenerative medicine therapies that take into consideration the nature of these complex products compared to conventional pharmaceuticals.
  • Frameworks for engaging diverse communities (inclusive of Indigenous and other equity-seeking populations) and integrating culturally sensitive, patient perspectives to explore disparities, gaps and needs. Ensure that regenerative medicine research is conducted considering equity and inclusion (e.g., conditions that predominantly affect equity-seeking populations are considered). Enhance ethical access and accountability (e.g., health disparities research seed funds).
  • Needs assessment (e.g., regulatory support, correlative study suites, dedicated beds, nursing and data management) for clinical trials of new living therapies and for their adoption into the health system.
  • Methodologies for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of regenerative medicine therapies (e.g., cost-effectiveness of regenerative medicine therapies; patient preferences). For example: Lifecycle Health Technology Management (HTM) frameworks that can be deployed to guide the process of evidence generation early in the R&D process. Proposed frameworks could support the development of high value technologies by capturing and evaluating data on clinical evidence, patient preferences, social impact and economic value propositions prior to regulatory approval.

Process and Timeline

Phase 1: Convergent Working Groups and Position Papers

Successful applicants will receive $25,000 of funding to convene a Convergent Working Group of experts and stakeholders for a 1-2 day workshop addressing one of the identified research themes above. Workshops are expected to include academic, industry, government and not-for-profit participants who will collectively articulate the nature of the research questions, how they could be tackled, and what intellectual resources are needed to make progress. Groups are expected to produce a position paper with a call-to-action as an output from the workshop.

Before submitting a proposal for Phase 1, prospective applicants must email awards.mbd@utoronto.ca to schedule a meeting with Medicine by Design leadership to discuss the proposal idea.

Phase 1 proposals are to be submitted with all required documents by October 5, 2022.

Phase 2: Pilot Program

Working groups funded in Phase 1 are eligible to apply for additional research funding of up to $200,000 for one-year (funding period: April 1, 2023 – March 31, 2024) to address a specific research question identified by the Convergent Working Group.

The details of the Pilot Program will be released in the fall of 2023.

Key Dates

Eligibility

  • Only one application will be accepted from each lead investigator, who will act as the coordinator of the workshop. Additional co-investigators will constitute the core organizational team. Some groups may wish to designate a logistics coordinator as a point-of-contact.
  • Medicine by Design encourages proposals led by Early Career Researchers as well as investigators new to the Medicine by Design community (e.g., those who are new to the regenerative medicine field, or who have not previously led a Medicine by Design-funded project and/or received funding from Medicine by Design).
  • Lead Investigators must have a faculty appointment at the University of Toronto and be eligible to hold tri-council funding.

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI)

The University of Toronto recognizes that diversity is essential to the creation of a vibrant intellectual community that allows our researchers to maximize their creativity and their contributions. Medicine by Design is therefore strongly committed to diversity in research and especially welcomes applications from racialized persons/persons of colour, women, Indigenous/Aboriginal Peoples of North America, persons with disabilities, LGBTQ2S+ persons, and others who may contribute to the further diversification of ideas. Convergent Working Groups are also asked to describe how the team composition addresses EDI principles and how their work will integrate considerations of sex/gender and diversity. 

Application Documents

The Request for Applications is due by Oct. 5, 2022.

Before submitting a proposal for Phase 1, prospective applicants must email awards.mbd@utoronto.ca to schedule a meeting with Medicine by Design leadership to discuss the proposal idea.